The Mississippi State University Bulldogs ended a three-game skid on Tuesday night by with a 80-62 blow out of the Vanderbilt University Commodores.
MSU (14-4, 2-3 SEC) juniors Aric Holman and Quinndary Weatherspoon both had big games. Holman posted a double-double, scoring 18 points and grabbing 14 rebounds while also playing big on the defensive end with two blocks. Weatherspoon lead the team in scoring with 19 points and had a very efficient night making eight of his 12 shot attempts.
Holman talked about the importance of the win after the game.
“We needed this win a lot,” Holman said. “Nobody wants to keep going on a losing streak, so we took it personal and came out and put together a good effort for 40 minutes.”
Maintaining second-half leads was a problem for the Bulldogs against Ole Miss and Auburn, however MSU remained consistent throughout Tuesday's game.
Head coach Ben Howland talked about their past struggles and what was different in the second half of this game.
“In two of the last three games we played we had leads late in the game and lost them,” Howland said. “Tonight, I thought we did a better job of sharing the ball and not trying to do it by ourselves and that was big for our young team.”
One of the keys to the Bulldogs running away with the game in the second half was their three point shooting. The Bulldogs have struggled as a team to consistently make threes all season, and the first half was no different as MSU went 3-13 from deep.
However, MSU found success from the outside in the second half, making 5-7 threes, energizing the team fired and opening up the entire offense.
The threes forced Vanderbilt to close out harder and respect shooters which opened up the driving lanes and post up opportunities within the Bulldog's half-court offense.
Weatherspoon talked about the team’s focus on improving its shooting after the game.
“We have just been doing a lot of shooting in practice. Guys are putting in the time and getting the reps,” Weatherspoon said. “Coach Howland came up with a new shooting drill he had us do in practice and I think it really helped.”
Howland also talked about the team’s shooting and what it takes for players to improve.
“We just need to shoot more,” Howland said. “To be a great shooter you have to get up reps. I remember Larry Bird used to shoot for an hour and a half before every game, so we just have to spend more and more time shooting.”
Currently, Holman is the only player on the team shooting over 35 percent from the three-point range and he plays power forward and center. Typically, if a big man is your best outside shooter that is a problem.
As the Bulldogs play against tougher competition it will be more difficult for them to get easy looks inside if defenses can hang back from the perimeter and not have to respect shooters.
Tuesday’s game could be a step in the right direction toward the Bulldogs being a more explosive and efficient offensive team.
The Bulldogs have a tough SEC road game coming up as they travel to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on Saturday to take on the University of Alabama (11-6, 3-2). Alabama’s overall record is not as good as MSU’s, but they played a much tougher non-conference schedule.
Alabama has one of the best point guards in the nation in true freshman Collin Sexton. Sexton is currently second in points per game in the SEC averaging 19.3. He is also one of the top NBA prospects in college basketball as he is currently projected as a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA draft by multiple sites.
Saturday’s game will tip-off at 7:30 p.m. and the SECNetwork will broadcast the game.